A quantum leap in computing

Monday, 30 August 2004, 1:44 PM EST

One of the fundamental problems with computers as they exist today is the two-pronged problem of security. Ensuring that online transactions can be completed in private requires a means of encrypting and decoding our messages. But how do you know that the message hasn't been intercepted, read after code-breaking and re-sent by an eavesdropper?

Computer security depends on factoring numbers. The number 6, for example, can be factored, or expressed, as 2 times 3. Factoring extremely large numbers - up to 24 digits long - lies at the heart of computer security systems and makes e-commerce possible because a modern computer cannot factor large numbers in the time frames necessary for a person to eavesdrop. In fact, it may take the computer millennia to try every possible combination of factors. This is a plus in favor of current methods of encoding with a computer.

By Franklin E. Schroeck, Jr. at the Denver Post.

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